If your company creates IoT solutions for utility and energy markets, you may find yourself in a quandary as to the best way to market your offerings. In most cases, big utilities are monopolies and don’t have a lot of pressure to innovate. They might have preferred vendors - typically large companies that offer generalized solutions - and are reluctant to take a chance on a small to mid-sized company that might be a better fit. Your job is to convince them of your value while answering their pain points with your products and services. What’s the best way to do that? You have to develop a robust and engaging communications strategy that will reach, and resonate with, energy companies.
Know What’s Missing
There are a lot of vendors driving the IoT story while creating a lot of noise, without a lot of substance; they aren’t talking about IoT in ways that answer an energy company’s pain points, nor are they educating in their marketing efforts.
Your challenge is to cut through the noise while offering real solutions that answer the energy company’s actual needs. You’re doing B2B marketing, but your prospective client has a B2C problem to solve, or solution to provide. Knowing what the energy company needs to provide better service to customers helps you figure out what type of content you need to create. Most energy companies are concerned with energy savings, cost savings, and general sustainability. Most end users are concerned with the same things, just from a different perspective. Knowing that can help you position your value proposition to make a big impact.
Why Content Marketing?
Traditional marketing - advertising in newspapers, on television, via billboards, cold calling, and the like - are tactics that are cost prohibitive to most smaller companies and they don’t produce substantial ROI. As a tech-forward company marketing an IoT solution, digital media presents the opportunity to get in front of your potential customer in a powerful way that establishes your company as a thought leader in your industry. Through content marketing, you are producing high-value, educational content that can cut through vendor hype and misinformation in a way that positions your company as one that solves the specific challenges your potential customers face.
Getting Started with Content Marketing
You have to decide what opinion or perspective you want to influence, and your unique point of view. Who is your audience? Do you want to impact an energy company’s leadership team? If so, what is the most valuable information you can provide? Think insights-based content that challenges your audience to try a new approach -- not settle for status quo. If your company deals in sensor data, for instance, you might know that most energy companies don’t know how to properly leverage the sensor data to gain insight that will help them improve their services, and more so gain insight that can translate into real ROI and business benefits. If you’re selling a smart grid solution, it might make sense to look at the concerns your potential client’s customers have, like information security, and address those issues. Anything you can provide that could help your client understand and sell your solution internally will work to strengthen your relationship. Identifying your business goal (which is tied, of course, to your potential client’s business goal) is the first step in planning your content marketing strategy.
Know Who You Are, What You’re Offering, And What You Want To Say
It bears repeating - knowing your message is the most important part of any content marketing plan. You can use keyword research, social listening and other tools to discover pain points in your potential client base, boosting your value proposition on real facts.
So what is your value prop? Maybe it’s that you’re a new, smaller vendor who can offer similar solutions to big companies like GE or Cisco, but you offer significant cost savings. Maybe your company is more nimble and can solve problems more efficiently without the structure, vendor lock-in, and complexity associated with working with a larger vendor. After you’ve identified who you are and what you’re offering, the trickier part is figuring out what you want to say in a compelling, headline-grabbing way. Start with that problem as a bullseye and create layers of content that center back to and around that bullseye. This builds credibility and content density, and makes you easier to identify in the noisy world of IoT marketing.
Choosing Your Medium
Knowing what form your content should take is key to a successful content strategy. For example, just about every content marketing program should, in some way, be tied very closely to search marketing. When it comes to search, there are paid and earned options. It’s important to consider a combination of both, since that gives you visibility to people who are searching for certain keywords. We use tools like SEM Rush and website analytics (webtrends, Google Analytics) to know what keywords your target audience is searching in order to make a content marketing campaign truly successful. That’s why mapping your end state and working backwards is the best way to choose the message you convey and the channels through which you convey it.
At the bare minimum, you need to have a blog that you push out via a hub-and-spoke model - through your website, Twitter and LinkedIn publishing, as well as earned and paid syndication. When it comes to richer media content let the analytics inform your decision-making -- perhaps YouTube videos don’t perform as well in your industry, and you should look at a solution like SlideShare.
The quality of the content has to be invoke emotion and be engaging, relevant, and timely. It needs to speak to your readers or viewers in a way that makes them want to learn more, while positioning your company as an expert in the field. There are several different ways content is popularly presented, but a few favorites include:
- Case studies show potential customers ways that you’ve addressed their problems with other clients. In fact in CMI’s 5th annual B2B Content Marketing Survey, 77% of companies reported using case studies as a part of their strategy.
- Infographics present data in an easily consumable way, with 62% of B2B marketers incorporating this tactic into their strategies.
- White papers/eBooks explain the data you’ve collected in a way that connects the dots for your potential client and 68% of marketers agree that this is a tactic to employ.
- Videos of any kind, from “man on the street” takes to animated productions, can provide tutorials or explain complicated concepts in a quickly viewable format. With 76% of B2B companies using videos in their marketing strategies, it can be a strong business move.
Take advantage of paid opportunities like branded journalism, digital advertising and mobile applications as long as they make sense for your business.
Analyze Your Content’s Performance
Once you have your channels in place, pay close attention to how they perform. If Twitter isn’t doing well for you, consider another tactic to add to the hub. Some “spokes” will perform better than others. Having a smart analytics tool like Hubspot that measures digital media, from social and the website to email and earned placements, in place is key to a successful content marketing strategy. It shows ROI and helps you tweak your strategy for greater success. Your content plan should be integrated, with an analysis model baked in before you publish the first piece of content. Then, when you measure the success of your content you know which pieces of the strategy to push on with, and which ones to drop.
Putting it All Together
When you build a strategy from the ground up, it helps to have a partner who knows your industry and knows how to communicate with your potential customers in interesting ways.